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INDIAN JAMBIYA

Place of Origin: DECCAN, INDIA

Date: 19th Century

Reference: 314

Status: Available

Full Description:

Continuing the theme of styles synthesised across cultures that is visible in the previous example in this catalogue, the present jambiya is of Indian manufacture but has been made in the Arab style.

The central design of the grip is decorated in gold koftgari with a line-bordered arrangement containing vertical rows of gold roundels which are inspired by those same filigree designs that appear on Arab jambiyas. However, two blossoming flowerheads exhibiting a dense array of stylised petals stemming from this central arrangement are Indian in style, suggesting that the koftgari artist of this dagger has seen Arab examples and decided to blend their style with elements of Indian decoration. The pommel-cap is further cut at its border with a geometric design reminiscent of Indian decoration (this repeated just below the edge where the blade is inserted into the hilt) and fitted at the centre of its surface with a faceted knop and pierced bracket for suspension. The scabbard is decorated primarily en suite with the hilt, the steel surface first decorated in gold koftgari to depict the same flowerheads as on the grip, surrounded by curving foliage in silver. An arch of pierced openwork then continues along the scabbard’s length, depicting a variety of curved shapes and flowerheads in a symmetrical arrangement – a motif repeated on the scabbard’s chape which is further attached with a spirally engraved finial. The scabbard also retains its original brown fabric, the blade cut with a medial ridge and tapering gradually before it curves sharply two thirds along the blade’s length and tapers sharply to a point.

According to Gracie, all ranks in the armed forces of Hyderabad (Deccan) eventually adopted the jambiya following contact with Arab mercenaries at the courts.[1] Another jambiya preserved in the Royal Collections (RCIN 11302),[2] presented to King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76 by Mahbub Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad, shows this same mix of influences in its decoration – particularly on the hilt’s grip where the decorative scheme comprises a central band of vertically arranged roundels from which stem two stylised flowerheads, just as on our own example.


[1] Stephen Gracie, Daggers from the Ancient Souqs of Yemen, 2010.

[2] https://www.rct.uk/collection/11302/dagger-and-scabbard